Arabian Pasta Salad
After a couple of rainy, cooler days, the sun was back and the heat was on again today! And as usual, I had to of course come up with something a little different to make for supper than everybody else was eating... that's just the way I am! Barbecue is fine, if you like that kinda thing in the Summer... but I have to say that tasty as it is- it just gets plain boring if you are doing it day after day and week after week all Summer! Plus... nobody needs to be eating so much meat all the time... well- I can only speak for myself I suppose- but I certainly don't want to!
Nope, this evenings meal was meat-free, stress-free and awesome at the same time... it IS possible! I had 4 of those skinny little eggplants left over and wanted to use them in a fun kind of way- so I decided to frazzle them under my broiler with just the minimum of olive oil, so that they became crisp and toasty- and added these to a pasta salad dressed in Tahini and yogurt and spiced with Ras el Hanout- pretty exotic! To make it into the real deal, I added barberries, pine nuts and raisins as well as plenty of herbs, lemon juice and a trickle of honey. I guess that covers quite a spectrum of oriental ingredients- but the predominant flavor that held all of the others together was the rich, sesame taste of the Tahini...
I prepared the eggplant by cutting it into thin slices- then spreading it our onto an oven tray. I sprinkled it with salt and let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then squeezed the slices gently so as to remove any excess moisture and then wiped off the tray of water and salt and added a very light drizzle of olive oil. I spread this around a little with my hands and then dropped the eggplant slices back onto the tray. I then slid and flipped the slices around so that they would get lightly, but hopefully equally "coated" in oil, then added a sprinkle of pepper and popped them into the oven, under the broiler, for around 4-5 minutes at 300°F. As soon as they were good from one side, I flipped them over and after 1-2, turned the broiler off. There was enough residual heat in there to brown and dry out the eggplant slices, and by the time the pasta was done, they were nicely well-done and pretty delicious!
I boiled the pasta, in this case "Castellane" and as soon as they were done, I drained them off and then added 2 tablespoons of tahini whilst the pasta was still hot. I also added the juice of half a lemon and 1 tablespoon of Ras el Hanout "rouge" powder, salt, pepper, a teaspoon of sugar and a splash of green Tabasco. Once the pasta had cooled off quite a bit, I added t tablespoons of plain yogurt, stirred this all nicely together and then got busy toasting a handful of pine nuts. And just to keep busy whilst they were browning on the stove top I started chopping plenty of herbs- I had basil, rosemary, parsley, mint and oregano fresh and chopped these up finely. By that time, the pine nuts were wonderfully golden and I had almost everything I need to put my pasta salad together!
I finely sliced 1 Spring onion and that was the last ingredient I needed before being ready to plate up the salad. First came the pasta with rich tahini, yogurt and spice dressing and then came the mixed herbs, onion, pine nuts, barberries, raisins and all of that goodness! my goodness! I added a light squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a few extra leaves of oregano... a last few drops of honey... and I must say that this really WAS one heck of a pasta salad!
Being Sicilian, this made me think of all of the Arabic influences we have in our cuisine- and that's a good thing! What would make it into an even better thing would be if you all tried to make this for yourselves too!